The recent spate of atmospheric river storms have reshaped and heavily damaged Carmel River State Beach and Lagoon and further undermined the bluffs underlying Scenic Road near Carmel Point. The County closed the stretch of Scenic Road above the beach due to exposure and potential destruction of the sewer line under Scenic Road, and is moving the sewer line away from the bluffs. County and other governmental officials met to decide how to install an emergency protective structure under Scenic Road along what little remained of the bluffs. Those bluffs have receded almost 30 feet since 2000 as a result of high wave action and river erosion. In the meantime, the County continues to work on a Revised EIR to develop a long-term solution to the bluff erosion and flooding risks for the homes along the Carmel River Lagoon. This EIR work began ten years ago and is still not complete.
Join us for California Wildlife Day 2023 as we celebrate our state’s wildlife and open spaces! The Carmel River Watershed Conservancy and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District will host the annual CWD event on March 26, 2023, from 10AM - 3PM at Palo Corona Regional Park. This free and public event will include in-person programming such as live animal presentations, interactive informational booths, and discussion panels with speakers from across our region. Explore your own backyard with guided walks throughout the park grounds led by local experts (stay tuned for registration links on our website). Student artwork, poetry, and scientific posters will be on display in the youth art show. Students are encouraged to submit their original work to participate! Guidelines are linked here: Art and Poetry and Scientific Posters.
More information and a detailed agenda to come! Follow the CWD website for more.
CRWC is working closely with CSUMB to produce an updated Watershed Health Report Card for the Carmel River Watershed. The Report Card is a public facing tool that uses 13 biological, chemical, and ecological indicators to track key watershed health metrics to identify priority restoration efforts. In the fall of 2022, significant modifications were made to the Report Card to improve and update watershed assessment practices. A new indicator for nutrients and pesticides was added, previous indicators were updated, and a new methodology for overall streamflow was implemented.
Considering the Carmel River watershed’s proximity to Salinas, ‘Salad Bowl of the World’, and the vineyards in the Carmel Valley, it is imperative to measure the nutrients and pesticides within the watershed. Runoff from local agriculture, including these nutrients and pesticides, can have adverse effects on habitat and water quality. The measurement was completed by counting all known measured pesticides and nutrients within the watershed, then setting a threshold limit to each type. Any above the threshold were deemed as a failure and were averaged over the total of all pesticides and nutrients. The nutrients and pesticides indicator received a fair score at 74. This indicator will need to be continually monitored.
Additionally, unimpaired streamflow and tributary flow indicators were combined to one indicator called the overall streamflow. Measurements for the river-floodplain connectivity indicator have been adapted to better capture river-floodplain connectivity. Ratios will be established to accurately compare and measure river-floodplain connectivity throughout the watershed. Current ratios and grading are still underway but will be present in the upcoming health report card.
Now, the overall grade for the watershed is fair at 67, which is a C letter grade. This grade was obtained from weighing the four major categories, chemical and physical, biotic and ecological, landscape, and natural disturbance. The watershed health has improved but more conservation and management efforts are still needed. For more information, including past indicator scores, visit our website.
On November 17th, the Coastal Commission discussed and reviewed a permit application for a new desalination plant to be located in the Monterey Bay. With a vote of 8-2, the project was approved, despite environmental and equity concerns, which the water utility was required to address during this resubmittal. After 3 years of worsening drought and a moratorium on pumping water from the Carmel River, desalination brings an alternative source of drinking water to the Monterey Peninsula.
The new desalination plant will be built in the City of Marina, on the site of the old sand mining facility which is surrounded by dunes and coastal habitat. It is expected this plant would provide 4.8 million gallons of drinking water a day, equivalent to about 35% of the water supply for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and other nearby communities. Coastal Commission staff reports that the water will cost approximately $6,000 an acre foot compared to $2,500 an acre foot at the Carlsbad desalination plant near San Diego. Local communities are concerned about the increased cost of water.
The facility will suck saltwater from beneath the sea floor, treat it in the new facility, and discharge leftover brine through a pre-existing wastewater discharge two miles offshore in the waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In an effort to preserve local habitat and coastal access, CalAm will give the City of Marina $3M for a coastal access program. The company will also monitor dune, wetland, and vernal pool habitat, and prioritize purchasing coastal lands to preserve for mitigation. This desalination plant will relieve the pressure on the Carmel River, which was illegally pumped for decades, harming the watershed and endangered species habitat.
The approval of this desalination plant follows precedent from another previously approved permit for a desalination plant in Doheny Beach, Orange County. After a nine year process, CalAm is one step closer to the reality of this Monterey Bay facility, with only a few more local and regional permitting challenges to face. The future of desalination as a steady water source for the Monterey Peninsula is looking extremely likely.
The CRWC Board of Directors is proud to welcome their newest Member, Alix Soliman. Originally from Illinois, Alix earned her B.A. in environmental studies concentrated in international law and policy from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. Passionate about effective science communication and community building, Alix works as the Communications & Outreach Coordinator at the Santa Lucia Conservancy where she oversees the Environmental Education Program, develops online and print resources, hosts naturalist events, builds partnerships, and manages digital media platforms. She comes to CRWC with over 7 years of experience in writing for, editing, and designing various newspapers, law school magazines, nonprofit websites and blogs. Dedicated to watershed conservation and fisheries management, she has studied fisheries policy and advocated for lower Snake River Dam removal to preserve salmon and steelhead runs in the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not working or volunteering, Alix can be found rock climbing, skiing, hiking, doing yoga, and reading.
Have you heard about the Big Sur Land Trust's Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement (FREE) Project? A recent article in the Monterey Herald discusses the project, it's history, and what we can look forward to.
From the Monterey Herald article:
Located east of Highway 1 and south of the Carmel River, the site was formerly known as the Odello (East) Fields, where the Odello family transformed the floodplain into an agricultural field to grow artichokes.
It was donated to the Big Sur Land Trust by Clint Eastwood and Margaret Eastwood and will serve as the construction site for the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement (Carmel River FREE) Project.
The $45 million Carmel River FREE project aims to restore habitat and reduce flood risks for homes and businesses in the lower Carmel River watershed.
Big Sur Land Trust’s project plans to create a series of new “conveyance” channels that allow the water to move through other pathways to reach the Carmel Lagoon and the ocean. Saunders [Big Sur Land Trust's Director of Conservation] explained that rather than remove the levee, the project will cut new notches into the levee to allow the water to stay in the channel but release it away from developed areas.
To prevent flood waters from disrupting Highway 1, the project will dig underneath the highway and create a new opening for flood waters to flow through. Saunders explained that a detour road will be installed once construction starts on Highway 1 to prevent traffic delays.
And to pay homage to the agricultural history of the land, the Big Sur Land Trust plans to create an agricultural preserve — with the dirt produced from the project — that is elevated to protect it from flooding.
To read the full article, follow this link.
California approves $140M desalination plant in orange county, setting precedent for smaller desalination plants
California regulators from the Coastal Commission reviewed and unanimously approved a $140 million desalination plant on Thursday, offering a guideline for how the state can convert ocean water into drinking water amid the worst drought in 1,200 years.
Just five months ago, the same Coastal Commission had unanimously rejected a much larger and privately owned plant, citing environmental concerns. But the South Coast Water District's proposed Doheny Ocean Desalination Project, at one-tenth the size, won approval by the same 11-0 vote. The plan, expected to produce 5 million gallons of drinking water per day, enough for some 40,000 people, will serve a small water utility in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles.
This approval sets precedent for other smaller-scale desalination plants in California, especially in regions that are faced with critical water shortages, such as the Marina-Monterey-Carmel region.
Read more on the issue from Reuters by clicking this link.
On September 20, 2022 at 1:30pm, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will hold its second regional water forum to address water supply issues facing Monterey County. The purpose of the regional water forum is to provide an overview of current efforts regarding water management and sustainability, and to initiate a comprehensive discussion on regional water supplies and solutions. The goal is to look broadly at what will be needed to ensure water security in Monterey County. An understanding of the larger regional water picture is important to forge a consensus approach for water agencies and County leaders.
The first regional water forum, held in March, provided a clear picture of how the regional water picture is now influenced by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s required outcomes, particularly in over drafted subbasins. The second forum will provide opportunity for broader understanding of the portfolio of regional management actions and potential projects.
As part of the forum agenda, we have invited special district water agencies and regulated utilities to share their perspectives on the following topics:
The Big Sur Land Trust announced this week that the beginning of Phase 1 construction of the Carmel River Floodplain Restoration and Environmental Enhancement Project (Carmel River FREE) has been postponed. This tough decision was made to avoid jeopardizing potential incoming funding from FEMA. FEMA is moving towards a $25.3M award for project construction, but requires a completed environmental assessment before breaking ground. For this reason, the project will pause until the assessment is complete, which is expected within a few months.
In the meantime, other project elements are continuing to move forward. This includes restoration, habitat management planning, project agreements, and final design of the causeway. Big Sur Land Trust is also propagating plant species such as black cottonwood, arroyo willow, creeping wildrye, and blue elderberry, all of which will be used for future floodplain restoration.
Join the Big Sur Land Trust for a Carmel River FREE site visit on September 24th! More info here.
The fourth annual California Wildlife Day took place on March 19th on a rainy day during the spring equinox. The event was hosted by the Carmel River Watershed Conservancy (CRWC) in partnership with the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District. The theme for the event was Connecting Communities: Wildlife and Watersheds, focusing on our stewardship of the land and how it affects the natural resources throughout California. This year’s event was held in a hybrid format, with the morning sessions taking place online and the afternoon events occurring in person at Garland Ranch Regional Park. The online speakers featured co-founder Lorin Letendre and former State Senator Bill Monning, followed by an Ohlone Rumsen blessing, and three panels to discuss wildlife, fire safe communities, and water resources. For a recording, please visit the Carmel River Watershed YouTube Channel.
The afternoon sessions at Garland Ranch Regional Park began with a blessing led by Stephen Arevalo, a member of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. While rain fell, hands-on activities hosted by community partners and local student artwork were showcased in the Visitors’ Center. Antionio Balesteri and his birds of prey were a favorite of children and adults alike. Guests also participated in guided walks through Garland Ranch led by field experts. One of the walks called Nehi Mata, “Earth Walk,” was led by the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and took visitors through the forest and alluvial plain to an ancient stone that indigenous peoples used for grinding acorns. At the native plant garden, the Ohlone Sisters, Carla Marie and Desiree Munoz, presented traditional songs and storytelling from the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe.
CRWC is grateful to all of its partners and guests, in person and through our virtual community, who made this year’s California Wildlife Day such a special event.